Seven Shaker Sorting: RTA Cabinet Store’s Wide Selection of Ready-to-Assemble Units
To look at seven variations of the same style of cabinet offered by a single distributor and pick a single one as the “best overall unit” is a challenge. We have to take into consideration every detail from each cabinet, compare the best as well as the worst aspects, and decide which are worth mentioning in our final rundown. RTAcabinetstore.com offers an abundance of options for White Shaker cabinets from their online store: Arlington, Artisan, Elegant, Frosted, Shaker Hill, Traditional, and the Vanilla. You can click on any of the links above to check out our individual reviews for each cabinet variety, but for this summation comparison article, we will briefly highlight what shines in specific categories for each cabinet and pit the top-ranked against one another.
Our four main categories of comparison will be Wood and Finish, Box and Storage, Hardware, and the Assembly and Support provided by the distributor. Each of these categories is crucial in determining which unit shines above the rest: in aesthetic value, quality of materials, types of hardware utilized, amount of time it takes to assemble, and the support provided by the distributor, these factors illustrate the care taken by a manufacturer and the lengths to which the RTA Cabinet Store is willing to go to assist in the strenuous process of choosing and installing cabinets in a home. While we do consider price essential on the part of the consumer when making the decision as to which cabinet will be the right one for his or her specific needs, our goal is simply to provide you with an accessible guide to navigate through the plethora of options and focus on a window we refer to as “Criteria of Quality.”
What follows is our take away after ordering and assembling the seven White Shake B15 cabinet varieties from RTAcabinetstore.com. Please feel free to comment, share, and posit any questions you may have regarding the units and we will do everything we can to assist you in narrowing down your own playing field!
Wood and Finish of the Interior, Exterior, and cabinet Face
This category represents the foundation for the aesthetic quality of the cabinets as they will appear in a home. The type of wood (or wood composite) combined with the paint and finish will be the most prominent features of a cabinet at first glance. When examining the paint and finish, we call forward three major questions:
- Are there any noticeable cracks or damage in the paint of the door, itself?
- Of what material are the door, drawer face, and frame composed?
- Is the paint applied evenly so as to cover any wood grains that may show through?
Three of the White Shaker varieties from RTA Cabinet Store has an off-white hue in the coloring of their paint coats: the Frosted, Artisan, and Vanilla styles. Observe in Pictures 1 and 2 where these three are lined up next to the Elegant White Shaker (in order from left to right: Elegant, Frosted, Artisan, and Vanilla). Using the Elegant as a reference, we can easily notice the difference these three cabinets possess from the typical pure white paint finish associated with a white shaker cabinet. Of the three, the Vanilla is the most obvious deviation from a pure white but also maintains the thickest, smoothest paint coat.
What makes this an even more impressive feat is the fact that the Vanilla Shaker’s door, cabinet frame, and drawer box are composed completely of Birch hardwood while no other cabinet from the RTA Cabinet Store can claim this feature. As we noted in our review of the Vanilla Shaker, the style of door is quite unique as it has a “Steppe” design that can only be found on this particular variety of white shaker from RTA Cabinet Store. Seen pictured alongside the Artisan in Picture 3, this design still implements the cope and stick design for which white shakers are known. This characteristic paired with the off-white paint hue will undoubtedly detract many consumers from purchasing the unit, but the fact stands that the Vanilla Shaker takes the prize on the smoothest, thickest and overall nicest paint and finish job.
We would be doing a disservice however to not include in our comparison the white shaker with the best paint and finish of the units exhibiting a true white coloring. The contest came down to the Elegant and the Shaker Hill, with each exhibiting the cleanest finish combined with a thick coat of paint (as can be seen in Picture 4). Both cabinet doors display five-piece cope and stick style doors, with the door frames being a hardwood and the center panel’s medium density fibreboard (MDF). When closely examining the Shaker Hill’s door, however, a rather large visible crack in the paint is noticeable (Picture 5). For this reason, we give the Elegant White the prize of nicest exterior paint and finish of the pure white options offered by RTA Cabinet Store.
As we move from the outside of the cabinet to the interior, we look at whether or not the interior of the cabinet is painted/stained to match the unit’s face or finished with a natural wood laminate veneer. Of the seven options offered by RTA Cabinet Store, three have a matching interior and the other four the natural wood veneer. The Vanilla Shaker, complete with a matching drawer box, boasts a thickly painted interior as opposed to the stained interior of the Traditional and the Frosted (Picture 6; from top to bottom: Frosted, Vanilla, Traditional). It is the Artisan White Shaker and the Shaker Hill, however, that are most notable as the units with the highest grade interior finish (Picture 7; Shaker Hill on the top and Artisan on the bottom). Both have a smooth finish to complement their natural wood grain veneer with the thickest laminate coating. Although there are some minor scratches in the finish, the prize for most impressive veneer goes to the Artisan for the unique “UV coating” that has us turning our heads. This is the first unit to come across our workbench that is able to make this claim, and the UV coating has impressed all of us here at RTA Cabinet Reviews who have seen and felt it.
Box and Storage
In order to determine which of the seven shakers from RTA Cabinet Store we look for several key features that constitute a high-quality cabinet box with ideal storage capacity. First, we examine the type of wood used to compose the panels: the thickness of the plywood, whether or not the back panel is built in a picture-frame style or a full panel, and how well the panels fit together. Next, we look at the length of the floating shelf in the box, as that will determine how items can be stored or if there is a wealth of unusable space caused by a short shelf occupying less than half the depth of the unit. Finally, the depth of the drawer box and quality of the dovetailing used in holding it together will determine the storage ability and quality of the box.
Three of the seven cabinets from RTA Cabinet Store can boast of possessing a full frame back panel (Picture 8; in order from left to right: Elegant, Frosted, and Artisan). This method of building back panels significantly increases the stability of the cabinet box as opposed to the picture-frame recess back panel because it is a single whole panel rather than numerous pieces of scrap plywood recycled and stapled together. In order to attach the panels to one another and the cabinet frame, tongue-in-groove fittings are utilized alongside cleats, “L” brackets, or cam locks. We will focus on the hardware and connecting parts in the next section, but for now, the tongue-in-grooves will be our focus.
The Artisan and Frosted have the most solid connections between their back panels: the Artisan with the traditional tongue-in-groove fittings and the Frosted with the unique but dependable double-plywood attachment (Picture 9: Artisan on the top, Frosted on the bottom). We give our vote of stability to the Frosted, as the quality of the plywood itself is top-notch combined with the thickness of the extra plywood running along the top of the back panel reinforces the cabinet box and is much easier to fit into place than the tongue-in-groove.
As we look at the floating shelves within each unit, the most important characteristic is the length of the shelf. The industry standard is to equip units with adjustable shelves to move accordingly and optimize storage space, but in an attempt to save cost on materials many manufacturers include a half-shelf. These floating half-shelves vary in length, are finished on multiple sides, and hung in the box by an assortment of means. Metal pegs and plastic clips are typically used to support the floating shelf. Among the RTA Cabinet Store Units, it is the Shaker Hill with the longest floating shelf measuring at 16.5 inches deep, with the next longest being the Frosted White Shaker at 12 inches long (Picture 10: Shaker Hill with the natural interior, Frosted with the painted matching interior). Unfortunately, the Shaker Hill lacks the full back panel that the Frosted possesses and as a result, the box isn’t as stable as the Frosted.
With so many boxes to take into consideration from RTA Cabinet Store, we had to narrow this category down to take into account the rest of the cabinet box as well. We will cover every drawer box from RTA Cabinet Store in a separate article, but for the purpose of choosing the unit with the overall best Box and Storage, we will keep our focus on the three cabinets featuring a full back panel. Of the Artisan, Elegant, and Frosted, it is the Frosted with the most impressive dovetailing and the deepest drawer box (Picture 11: Frosted Shaker with measured depth next to Elegant in the background). A shallow drawer depth will cut out valuable storage space and be endlessly frustrating when opening and closing the drawer as items will inevitably get caught on the frame.
Box and Storage are two of the more difficult characteristics to assess in a unit. When comparing so many different cabinets it is necessary to focus on the features we feel are the most important in determining the best cabinet. From the seven units from RTA Cabinet Store, the contest boils down to the Shaker Hill and the Frosted White units. Both units exhibit stronger panel connections, longer shelves, and deeper drawer boxes than the other five cabinets. Although the Frosted White Shaker has the full back panel, we have to give the award for top Box and Storage to the Shaker Hill. With a floating shelf significantly longer than any other shelf at 16.5 inches and dovetailing on the drawer box noticeably stronger than that of the Frosted, the Shaker Hill exhibits the qualities in a unit’s box and storage we seek to highlight.
Hardware is essential for the stability of a cabinet and how stable the individual pieces are held together. From the cam locks, cleats, and “L” brackets to the drawer glides, hardware has the potential to denigrate or elevate the integrity of a unit. There exists a wide spectrum concerning quality when considering hardware, with the top tier being BLUM appliances for hinges, connecting parts, and drawer slides. Bear in mind as we discuss the hardware, the seven white shaker options from RTA Cabinet Store come from different manufacturers so naturally each unit comes equipped with a different combination of hardware, so we will first be discussing which units lacked industry standard quality drawer glides and hinges. The essential hardware, based on our criteria, are these soft-close hinges and full-extension drawers, with the connecting parts proficiently keeping the cabinet stable.
All but one cabinet from RTA Cabinet Store’s white shaker collection features both full extension drawers as well as soft close hidden hinges, and that is the Traditional White Shaker. With its epoxy drawer glides (lacking in both full-extension capacity as well as soft-close mechanisms) and flimsy plastic anchors, the hardware that comes with the Traditional is disappointing on all fronts (Picture 12–right). It is truly the anchors here one needs to keep an eye on, as they will support not just the drawer glides and the box, but the items stored in the drawer as well. Three different types of anchors are used among the varieties: the flimsy beige plastic ones previously discussed, a harder grey plastic set of anchors, and aluminum anchors (Pictures 13, 14, 15). Obviously, the aluminum anchors are the best of the three, but it is only the Frosted White that is able to boast this feature. Not only do these anchors bite onto more of the drawer glides, but they also are capable of supporting more weight than their plastic counterparts.
Cam locks are quickly becoming the industry standard for holding together the panels of a cabinet. They are typically pre-fitted, simple to lock in place and provide lasting stability to a unit. Three units with cam locks from RTA Cabinet Store are the Arlington, the Shaker Hill, and the Vanilla Shaker. Our vote for the top among the cam locks goes to the Shaker Hill, namely because the white housing surrounding the lock itself is composed of a sturdy plastic while the Vanilla Shaker cam locks’ housing is a malleable plastic (Picture 16). The Phillips bit screw head of the Arlington is easily stripped and difficult to lock into place, almost to the point where a cleat or an “L” bracket is preferred. The Shaker Hill is quick and easy to assemble as well as dependable, sturdy, and aesthetically sleek.
When awarding the top spot in any of these categories, we seek to give it to the unit with the most unique and positive features or characteristics. The choices between the seven for best hardware really boil down to a close contest between the Shaker Hill and the Frosted White. The Frosted White walks away with the victory in this category because of the aluminum support anchors holding up the drawer glides. While the cam locks on the Shaker Hill are undeniably the best of the three, the “L” brackets that snap into place on the Frosted provide a dependable, stable bite for the panels. There can be no understating the importance of securing a drawer box to the rest of the unit, and the Frosted White took the greatest care in ensuring that the drawer box will be held securely in place by the full extension soft close glides.
Assembly and Support
Essential to the assembly of a cabinet is the means by which it is organized, packaged, and shipped. Within this process, many obstacles can and will present themselves and the best option to rectifying these issues will be to go through Customer Support. This section will concentrate on which of the units is delivered with the best packaging, organized in an accessible and clear pattern within said packaging, the ease with which an individual is able to assemble each unit, and the support provided by RTA Cabinet Store’s team.
The three units from RTA Cabinet Store that ship with the best packaging are the Elegant White, the Frosted White, and the Shaker Hill. The exterior packaging with the most reinforcement is a toss-up between the Frosted White and the Shaker Hill, as both come with hard cardboard protectors surrounding the extremities of the parcel itself (Pictures 17, 18). These cardboard rails are an added measure to keep the pieces of the unit intact as it travels from manufacturer to distributor and finally to the cabinet’s new home. The exterior of the Elegant is rapped with thick plastic bands which operate on two levels: to keep the double-corrugated cardboard together during the shipping process and to maximize the ease of handling the parcel (Picture 19).
Upon opening the packages we see a standardized system of organizing the individual components of the unit and wrapping each in bubble wrap as well as Styrofoam sheets. For the interior packaging, it is the Frosted and the Elegant that shine over the Shaker Hill. Both of these units arrive with the door and drawer face packaged alongside the frame enclosed in their own separate thick plastic wrapping (Picture 21), with the Frosted going so far as to be attached to the frame (Picture 22).
This feature is impressive on many levels, showing a distinct care for the product on the part of the manufacturer and a true investment in the value of the cabinet. It also makes for the assembly of the cabinet to be a straightforward process, preventing any damage from being done on the part of the customer when attaching the door to the unit frame.
Good instructions are essential in building any cabinet, especially if one is not used to the process. This category is fairly easy to distinguish a winner among all seven units: the Shaker Hill’s in-depth instructions paired with both black and white (Picture 23–right) as well as colored pictures to guide the process along set the bar to a new high going forward in our reviews. On top of the clear instructions, the hardware and connecting wood screws are diligently packaged in red plastic bags with labels identifying their corresponding steps in the construction process (Picture 24–below). Combined with the solid cam locks, the Shaker Hill is hands down the easiest cabinet to assemble we have yet encountered.
Support from RTA Cabinet Store’s online team has been dependable, considering they offer no live chat. The several times my attempts to reach them by phone my line was transferred to a machine wherein I was told to leave a message and a member of the team would reach out as soon as possible. This process took several days, and I resorted to communicating with them through emailing the customer support branch. My messages and concerns were answered within 2 business days and they were congenial and respectful to the issues I was facing with the product. I requested replaced epoxy slides for the Traditional White shaker and after showing them a picture of the damaged piece, they shipped me a replacement which arrived within a week. Several of the online reviews from past customers have complained that their requests and issues were met with one brick wall after another, but my experience was satisfactory.
When it’s all said and done, assembling and reviewing seven B15 white shaker cabinets from a single distributor provides a fair share of challenges. Without cutting out too much of the important information in each category and taking into account the positive and negative features each unit posits forward, our goal with this comparison is to provide you with one or two options from which to choose. The biggest challenge with making the selection from RTA Cabinet Store’s expansive collection is narrowing the field considering two of their finest products are not painted in a “true white” hue, but rather a slightly off-white hue.
Based on our criteria and excluding the color, the Vanilla Shaker is the best option for the current retail price. The off-white color is very distinguishable, and the steppe design of the cabinet door sets it apart from every other unit we have assembled thus far. With a solid drawer box painted to match the rest of the cabinet, sturdy cam locks, dependable hardware, soft close hinges and a full extension drawer, the vanilla Shaker is the most technically sound unit we have yet come across. We have decided to eliminate it from the running because it is so noticeably divergent from the true clean white paint job the vast majority of customers are seeking when shopping for a white shaker unit. If you take no issue with this then the Vanilla shaker, at its current retail rate of $141.94 this is the best quality unit you will find online for the price you pay (Picture
Based on the preceding paragraphs in the review, the contest boils down to a making a decision between the Frosted White Shaker and the Shaker Hill. Each has its own veritable merits: the Frosted has aluminum drawer glide anchors which take the prize as the strongest yet to come across the workbench. On the other hand the Shaker Hill possesses the strongest cam locks of any, with hard plastic housing and quick mechanical catches that clench and hold the panels of the unit together to make for a stable, solid unit. Both drawer boxes display strong dovetailing and adequate depth for storage, but it is the Shaker Hill that prevails for its storage capacities as a result of its extended interior box shelf. Soft close mechanisms can be found on the drawer glides and hinges of each. The finish of the door on the Frosted is smoother than that of the Shaker Hill, with zero evidence of cracks or wood grains visible while the Shaker Hill did have some minor discrepancies on the door face.
It is the in-depth and detailed instructions of the Shaker Hill that truly weighed the contest in favor of this unit. The organization of the hardware within the packaging of the Shaker Hill combined with the picture-laden assembly guide and the cam-locks came together to make this the easiest assembly of any cabinet we have yet to review. A hardwood door and frame, a crisp white paint job, valuable storage space, as well as safely wrapped packaging greatly assisted in sorting through the seven shakers. From manufacturer Sunnywood, the Shaker Hill B15 White Shaker cabinet is the highest quality unit offered from RTA Cabinet Store.